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Half of the nation's children have suffered trauma, report says

Just under half the nation's children have lived through an
Just under half the nation's children have lived through an "adverse experience" in their lives. One of those experiences is having a parent incarcerated. The Community Prisoner Mother Program is run by a non-profit, Prototypes. In addition to housing non-violent, low-level offenders with their children, it’s open to community members who are undergoing in-patient drug abuse or mental health treatment.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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A report out this week finds that just under half of the nation's children have lived through at least one traumatic experience - most commonly, financial hardships. It's part of a national look at early chronic stress in children's lives compiled by the research institute Child Trends. 

Experts say chronic early stress - or "adverse experiences" - in children’s lives can alter their emotional responses, their impulse control  and even harm their developing brains. 

For the study, researchers analyzed interviews from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health with more than 95,000 adults who had a child in their household. They looked for eight "adverse experiences" - including parental divorce, having a parent incarcerated, witnessing violence in the neighborhood, being the victim of sexual or physical violence, or living with someone who was suicidal. 

Economic hardship was the most commonly reported stress children nationwide faced. 

Child Trends has been compiling data about children's well-being for years, but this is their first time using a large enough nationwide sample to make state-by-state comparisons.

California’s children fared a bit better than the national average. Only 9 percent of the state's children experienced more than three of the adverse experiences compared to 11 percent of kids nationwide having lived through that many.

Among the states, California’s children are also least likely to live with someone who’s suffering from a mental illness – only 5 percent of California children in the sample.